Reprieve response to President Obama’s first 100 days: work still to be done

April 29, 2009

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Reprieve applauds the Obama Administration’s significant work in reversing the extraordinary policies of President Bush. However there is much urgent work still left undone:

1) Guantánamo Bay

Reprieve is delighted by President Obama’s decision to close Guantánamo Bay and recognises the complexity of the task. Nevertheless, Guantánamo remains open and we remain concerned for our clients:

• Many prisoners remain in isolation or harsh conditions – despite never being charged with a crime.

• 21 individuals who have been ordered released by federal courts remain in Guantánamo to date. This includes Reprieve’s juvenile client Mohammed el Gharani, who was arrested when he was just 14 years old.

• The one person to leave Guantánamo during the Obama administration has been British resident Binyam Mohamed.

Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve, said: “One of Obama’s central pledges was to close Guantánamo Bay – yet after 100 days only one person has left the prison. There are 60 people cleared to leave now and those people must be released and re-settled as a matter of urgency.”

2) Secret Prisons

It is encouraging that the Obama administration has closed prisons run by the CIA. However, CIA prisons are fairly minor in terms of numbers of prisoners held illegally. Reprieve remains concerned that:

• Obama has not addressed the use of military prisons (run by US Department of Defence rather than the CIA) to hold the majority of US overseas prisoners— reaching into the thousands.

• One such prison is Bagram Air Force base, where conditions are significantly worse than Guantánamo. Not one of over 600 prisoners there has had access to a lawyer. Moreover, the Administration has recently decided to appeal a District Court ruling extending habeas corpus jurisdiction to foreign nationals detained in Bagram.

• Obama has not addressed the use of other countries for ‘proxy detention’ – arrests and imprisonment enacted by local police in third countries on behalf of the United States. Proxy detention seeks to avoid the niceties of local legal process or bilateral extradition treaties and poses grave risks for human rights.

3) Renditions

President Obama has not addressed extraordinary rendition – whereby prisoners are flown to another country in order to be interrogated. This practice is illegal under international law and has been condemned as such by the European Union. However an Obama aide described it as a valuable ‘tool’ for national security, and the new Administration continued with the President Bush’s plea for secrecy in the litigation against Jeppesen Dataplan, which would reveal details of the US renditions programme.

4) Accountability and truth-telling

Reprieve is dismayed by Obama’s pledge to look forwards rather than backwards. Victims of the US ‘War on Terror’ have never had any kind of acknowledgement – let alone apology or compensation – from a government that committed grave crimes against them.

Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve, said: “Reprieve is concerned about Obama’s call to look forwards rather than backwards. This is a surprising take on crime and we believe that it will prove untenable as more information emerges about the conduct of the ‘war on terror’.”

-ENDS-

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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